U.S. only country to ban funding for clean syringe programs


“Give Them Dirty Needles and Let Them Die” is the title of a new piece in AlterNet, inspired by a remark once made by Judge Judy when she went to Australia and was asked her opinion about the distribution of sterile needles to drug injectors to prevent the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

In her report, author Roseanne Scotti maintains that the judge’s remark is actually a reflection of the federal government’s attitude toward the clean needle program. Opponents of syringe access programs, Scotti points out, say that providing such programs “condones” drug use. The fact that several studies have shown that needle programs do not actually encourage drug use are probably irrelevant to the opposition, who not only turn their noses up at scientific research, but who also oppose anything that they can claim condones a behavior they do not like.

This is not to argue that anyone likes the idea of drug addiction, but drug addiction is a reality. One cannot help but wonder whether Judge Judy and her followers likewise condemn Rush Limbaugh to a painful death, or whether they wish former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist had died of AIDS.

According to the AlterNet piece, the rate of HIV related to shared syringes is 4% in Australia, 6% in the UK, 17% in Canada, and 22% in the U.S. Even Iran has started a syringe exchange program. In 2002, U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher concluded in his report to Congress:

After reviewing all of the research to date, the senior scientists of the Department and I have unanimously agreed that there is conclusive scientific evidence that syringe exchange programs . . . are an effective public health intervention that reduces the transmission of HIV and does not encourage the use of illegal drugs.

Satcher’s conclusion was corroborated by the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the National Institutes of Health Concensus Panel, and the AIDS Advisory Commissions of Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. However, the U.S. remains the only country with a ban against the federal funding of clean syringe programs.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.